In very basic terms, historical and architectural preservation is associated with the act of restoring, conserving, and managing changes of a particular heritage. It is a process that ensures the significance of these structural icons and enables their sustainability so that the future generations that are to follow can benefit from their physical presence. It is also important to realize that if it were not for this practice of preserving the architectural heritage, most recorded history that enables us to learn about our past would not have been possible.
Although the preservation of the rich architectural resources has enjoyed a long journey of controlled development over time, it is important to highlight that each region has its unique manner of carrying out this specific process. The techniques used to maintain these architectural hallmarks is another very important part of the process that ensures their longevity. However, this preservation process is extremely important because it gives the viewers an in-depth insight into the past and contributes towards recorded history. It is a conscious attempt by professionals to portray how the world was existing before us.
How is the preservation of architectural heritage relevant?
Talking about the very first remnants of architectural monuments that have been preserved over time, a prime example would be the diminished monuments in Greece that have been maintained over time and have given us individuals today a wonderful memoir of what life was like back then. Talking about the Greek architectural heritage that has been salvaged to this date such as the Acropolis of Athens, the set of measures that have been taken to preserve it throughout all these years has given us a taste of the architectural style and thought process that the masters of that era possessed. The preservation of such architectural landmarks also helps us as future architects and designers to study the architectural experiences and semantics that these spaces and buildings made use of and possibly learn the art of employing classical architectural elements in our modern-day practice.
Examples of Architectural Heritage Preservation on a Global level:
It is no surprise to observe that public space design and architectural design formulate themselves as an integral part of a city’s identity. It speaks a lot about the way the city has been shaped over time and what intangible social factors may have affected its architectural visual language that we as viewers are interpreting today. Another similar example that is perhaps more region specific is in Pakistan where architects such as Kamil Khan Mumtaz are partaking in this life-long endeavor to preserve the architectural heritage of the Punjab region in Pakistan.
Through his work, we come to acknowledge the need for establishing a particular architectural visual language and national idiom that defines the architectural history of the Pakistan region and how it can be maintained for us to learn from. Moreover, through the preservation of these architectural marvels, the idea of modernity and tradition can also be understood. The extent to which these two concepts can either co-exist in the 21st century or stand out independently. The preservation works of Kamil Khan Mumtaz are mainly focused on a particular region of Pakistan, yet they convey a universal message of working towards this agenda to retain an active link with the past.
Understanding the importance of preserving and promoting historical buildings can also be seen as a way of regenerating an important aspect of our cultural heritage. It acts as a promenade leading the modern-day generation into a realm from the past which they can experience firsthand. In a changing world where technological dependency seems to be at the forefront of all avenues, the preservation of architectural heritage makes up for this disconnect.
A higher purpose?
Apart from serving the purpose of being a connecting tool to the past, historical buildings also act as overseas tourist attractions for a large segment of the world population. Famous buildings such as castles, cathedrals, mosques, and other public buildings act as destination spots that celebrate the vernacular architectural heritage of a particular region. Visiting these places is one of the best activities that can be offered to people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds as the historical buildings serve to be excellent teachers of the past in their way.
A prime example of historical buildings being preserved is the La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona by Antonio Gaudi. Even though the architectural masterpiece is still incomplete, the correct steps have been reinforced to maintain the integrity of the building. The building gives the viewers a marvelous insight into the design process behind it and the architectural style that was alive back in the day when Gaudi designed the structure.
Old buildings are aesthetic witnesses to the architectural heritage and cultural spirit of a city, giving the people a sense of space. Another interesting example is that of the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan where the grandeur of the Mughals can be felt even till today. The building is now used for a variety of socio-cultural purposes and acts as a primary socio-economic hub for the heart of the city of Lahore.
Nevertheless, the preservation of historical buildings that harbor the spirit of the past is important to deter any disconnection with the learnings of the past. It is important for us as designers and architects of today to draw inspiration from the master’s of the past and this can only be possible through the collective effort of the society to work towards conserving such architectural landmarks.